As one of the hardest-hit industries during the Great Recession, construction saw its largest percentage decline in employment in the post-World War II era, 13.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And as the country began to claw its way out of the economic muck, the BLS had the highest recovery hopes for this goods-producing industry. In its last biennial employment projections report, released in February 2012, the BLS predicted numerous construction jobs among the fastest-growing from 2010 to 2020. It was one of the most off-the-mark predictions the government agency made, however.
Growth in this sector has been evident, but far from fast. The estimated unemployment rate for construction slid from a chilling 20.6 percent in 2010 to 16.4 percent in 2011, and 13.9 percent in 2012. All construction jobs are subject to the fluctuations of the economy, and as yet, our economy is still grasping for footing. The construction workers who are finding work are those with experience.
[See: The 25 Best Jobs of 2013.]
Fortunately, our U.S. News Best Construction Jobs aren't simply based on employment projections, but also on actual unemployment rates, salaries, good job prospects, plus advancement possibilities, low stress, and a steady work-life balance. Here are the 10 jobs we picked, where the odds of finding a job could be in your favor.
Average Salary: $62,670
There's a myth that every construction job involves manual labor—not true. A cost estimator does occasionally don a hard hat and get his or her hands dirty on a construction site, but he or she also spends considerable time crunching numbers in a sterile office. Cost estimators are involved in both high-level and miniscule decisions of budgeting, and so they must remain familiar with a site's resources but also be adept with computers and various estimating software. Some cost estimators are charged with budgeting the cost of a project from start to finish, while others are hired to budget specifics, like the electrical component. A bachelor's degree in an industry-related field is the most common starting point, but voluntarily pursuing certification will give you even more of an edge. The BLS predicts those with knowledge of Building Information Modeling software should have the strongest chances.
Fairbanks, Alaska, Santa Barbara, Calif., and Framingham, Mass., pay estimators the highest salaries, according to the BLS.
Average Salary: $93,900
There's also a myth that those who work in a blue-collar industry don't earn a lot of green. This occupation disproves that. In 2011, construction managers' average salary was just shy of $95,000, putting them in a higher pay bracket than some computer systems analysts and civil engineers. To become the professional responsible for planning and budgeting a construction project, you'll most likely need a bachelor's degree in construction science, building science, or a related field. An associate's degree, when married with relevant experience, could also serve as an appropriate entry. Other crucial traits for a construction manager include analytical skills for troubleshooting project snags, some managerial experience so you can be adept at finding and supervising staff, and strong communication skills for writing proposals and budget plans. Population growth and heightened demand for more office buildings, hospitals, and infrastructure should elevate job prospects for those qualified.
In 2011, New York state had one of the highest employment levels for this occupation, plus it also paid its managers well: The metropolitan areas of Elmira, Nassau, and New York City all report average salaries of at least $135,000 to the BLS.
Average Salary: $51,830
It's the troubleshooting component of a plumber's duties that most of us are familiar with, but there's so much more to this job. After a four- to five-year apprenticeship, plumbers are versed in blueprints and building codes and have the know-how to install, maintain, and repair water and drainage pipes for small appliances as well as large septic systems. Employment demand in this field is spurred by a few factors: new building construction, the installation of more-efficient, low-flow plumbing systems, and a vast number of boomer plumbers who are expected to retire soon.